Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sustainability Real Talk—GreenStep Cities Workshop & Webinar Dates for 2018-2019

Register for Oct. 3 workshop
Register for Oct. 3 webinar
Subscribe to the GreenStep Cities newsletter to receive registration links as they go live.

You want to see what cities are *actually* doing on sustainability topics, learn more about resources to make your life easier, and generally feel less like an island and more like the connected, resiliency rockstar you know you can be. We get it.

The free GreenStep Cities Workshop and Webinar Series is here for you, and the 2018-2019 dates have been announced (see below). Your city does not have to be in the GreenStep Cities program for you to participate.

What you can expect:
  • Relevant topics like road design, using data, partnering with schools, and more.
  • Real talk about sustainability projects straight from the city staffers doing the work.
  • Inspiration and info about resources from other levels of gov, nonprofits, and the private sector you can use.
  • Connections with other city officials in the room ready to share their own experience.
This season the workshops will be held the first Wednesday of each month from 9-11 a.m., with the exception of January (second Wednesday). Attend in person at the League of Minnesota Cities in St. Paul—free parking, transit accessible, snacks, friendly faces—or tune in online from literally anywhere with a connection. May's workshop is on the road in Red Wing!

All the 2018-2019 dates:
Oct. 3—Climate Smart Municipalities: What We’ve Learned from Germany
Nov. 7—EcoDistrics: What City Leaders Learned from the National Conference
Dec. 5—GreenStep Metrics: Work Session on Gathering and Reporting Data
Jan. 9—Green Building Policies: City Case Studies & Policy
Feb. 6—Road Diets: City Case Studies & Policy
March 6—Shared Mobility & Electric Vehicles: What We’ve Learned from Cities
April 3—The Smart City: Energy & Dollars Saved by Smart Data Use
May 1—Deep Energy Efficiency: Red Wing City & School Accomplishments

See what you missed!
Looking for a specific topic? Check out the archived webinar presentations here:
2017-2018 workshops
2016-2017 workshops 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Sep-Oct 2018 Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine Is Now Online

The latest issue of Minnesota Cities magazine arrived last week, and can be found online at The September-October 2018 issue covers everything from LMC award winners to electronic OSHA reports.

Bonus: Printed copies and the online PDF of the magazine include the 2017-2018 Annual Report insert, which should be renamed to the "Working for Cities is 🔥 Report." (That's a good thing, FD folks, promise.)

Some more highlights:

Our cover story features C.C. Ludwig Award winner Mary Hamann-Roland (Apple Valley mayor) and James F. Miller Leadership Award winner Susan Arntz (Waconia city administrator). You can read about how they stand out from the crowd in League Honors Outstanding City Leaders.

Learn how to keep it simpleeven when you know every nook and cranny of a subjectwith the four communication tips in Crafting a Simple Message—If You Lose Them, You Can’t Persuade Them.

You know that welcoming service animals in public places is an important part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Now dig deeper into what cities need to know in Meeting ADA Requirements for Service Animals.

More great features and regular departments include what's on the mind of Executive Director Dave Unmacht in St. Paul to City Hall, summaries of recent court cases in From the Bench, and the newest Focus on Small Cities, dedicated this issue to how a city of fewer than 700 residents is embracing sustainability.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Calling All Future Leaders!

How can a mayor make an impact in their city? Maybe by hosting a clean-up or tree-planting event to improve parks and open spaces, giving a speech on the importance of working for a city, or posting signs around the city sharing a message of community pride.

These ideas—and more!—were featured in the winning essays from three elementary school students for the League’s 2017 “Mayor for a Day” essay contest. Students across the state submitted hundreds of creative ideas of things they would do if they had the chance to be mayor.

Now, it’s time to sharpen those pencils and get thinking once again! All fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders who live in Minnesota are invited to share their best ideas about how they would improve a city service or program for the 2018 contest.

Three winners will be chosen, each will receive a check for $100, and they'll have their essay published in an issue of Minnesota Cities magazine. All entries must be handwritten and postmarked by Oct. 12, 2018.

Please share this with students, teachers, and parents in your community. We can’t wait to hear this year’s crop of great ideas!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Find GreenStep Cities at the MN State Fair Eco Experience Building

Left to right: Student assistants Divya Ghosh and UJ from the U of M Institute on the Environment; Sen. Dave Senjem, Rochester; Blaine Hill, city manager, Morris; Larry Herke, Office of Enterprise Sustainability, State of Minnesota; Kristin Mroz, local government coordinator, Environmental Quality Board; and Amanda Bednar, environmental coordinator, Elk River, kick off the first day of the fair at the Eco Experience building.
The League booth isn't the only place dedicated to sharing the best that cities have to offer this year at the fair. The GreenStep Cities program and their partners are excited to be hosting “Clean Energy Community” days at the Eco Experience building daily from noon to 6 p.m. In partnership with the Department of Commerce Division of Energy Resources, communities have been invited to host a booth, connect with fair goers, and share their clean energy stories. Why? One of the best ways to engage communities in clean energy actions is for them to learn more about what other communities have done!

What is a Clean Energy Community? A county, city, township, tribal nation, school district, or any place you call home that is dedicated to promoting, supporting, and being active in producing clean energy.

 What you'll find at the exhibit:
•    Displays that describe GreenStep, Clean Energy Community Award, and Climate Smart Communities, including maps, descriptions, and ways to join.
•    Postcards for fairgoers to take home that promote a variety of Clean Energy Community organizations, including GreenStep Cities, Climate Smart Municipalities, and Minnesota Clean Energy Communities.
•    A display featuring the recent Minnesota Clean Energy Community Award recipients.
•    An interactive display, “Actions in Your Community,” that will allow fair attendees to vote on actions their community has already taken and actions they would support.

This year's community host lineup:
•    Aug. 23 – Climate Smart Municipalities (Duluth, Warren, Morris, Elk River, Rochester)
•    Aug. 24 – Maplewood
•    Aug. 25 – Warren
•    Aug. 26 – Climate Smart Municipalities (Duluth, Warren, Morris, Elk River, Rochester)
•    Aug. 27 – Falcon Heights
•    Aug. 28 – Rural Climate Dialogues (Itasca, Winona, and Stevens counties)
•    Aug. 29 – General Overview
•    Aug. 30 – Edina
•    Aug. 31 – General Overview
•    Sept. 1 – Hutchinson
•    Sept. 2 – General Overview
•    Sept. 3 – General Overview

See you at the Great Minnesota Get-Together!

Photo and post by Kristin Mroz

Monday, August 13, 2018

ELGL's City Hall Selfie Day is Aug. 15

Chances are if you're active on social media and in local gov, you've probably come across #CityHallSelfie Day! #CityHallSelfie Day is a chance to celebrate local government service and the important work happening at the local level, and to showcase local government facilities.

This year, #CityHallSelfie Day is set for Wednesday, Aug. 15. Whether you work for a city, county, special district, township, or other form of local government, Aug. 15 is the day to snap a selfie in front of your government building and post it loud and proud on your social media account of choice.

#CityHallSelfie Day is coordinated by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders Network, a big tent local government professional association that connects, communicates, and educates about local government public service.

It's not a competition per se—everyone wins when we take pride in local government service—but ELGL and Bang the Table will be partnering on an awards program for #CityHallSelfie takers in twenty categories that you can see on the ELGL website. Nominations and voting begin Aug. 17. 

How do I participate?
  •     Stand in front of a government building—e.g. city hall, a public works garage, fire hall, or a picnic shelter.
  •     Snap a picture of yourself or a group.
  •     Share the photo on social media with the hashtag #CityHallSelfie.
  •     Want to compete for prizes and recognition? Check out the list of award categories linked above. 
We think Minnesota cities have what it takes to be well represented this year and have some fun. We'll see your smiling faces on #CityHallSelfie Day!

LMC Board alumna Tina Rennemo from Baudette has pretty
solid selfie skills.

Friday, August 10, 2018

See You There! City Careers at the MN State Fair

 It’s 12 days of putting the “POW!” into people power! 

Grab your capes, because the “Discover Your City Superpower” booth will return to the State Fair this year as a project of the League of Minnesota Cities. This year you'll find us in the Education Building, helping visitors take a touchscreen quiz to discover which city careers need their superpowers.

The state fair booth’s website sidekick,, features interviews with city staffers and elected officials sharing what they really think about what it's like to work in Minnesota cities. Thanks to the city folks who gave us a behind-the-scenes look!

New this year—city careers on a roll
The League is trying something new and running advertisements on local bus routes during the fair, encouraging riders to check out to see all the opportunities for rewarding careers. We’re excited to get the word out to a new audience that may never have considered city employment before!

What’s all this?

Since 2009, the League has had a campaign dedicated to educating the public about city services and where tax dollars go. The campaign is now going through a rebranding process to incorporate promotion of city careers and to reflect the needs of cities today as well as the values of young people—aka future city leaders. Since the Minnesota State Fair is the Great Minnesota Get-Together, it’s a great place to continue spreading the message about the value of cities to Minnesotans while the campaign’s new look is under construction!  You can still find lots of great content about city services as well as city careers at

The Minnesota State Fair runs Aug. 23-Sept. 3. We'll see you in the Education Building!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Q&A with Mental Health First Aid Instructor Akmed Khalifa

City employees have opportunities to create connections with many members of the community. Through these connections, city employees are in unique positions to provide help when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. But how can city employees get the tools needed to provide that assistance?

Akmed Khalifa is an instructor for Mental Health First Aid, a program that gives people tools to provide aid during a mental health crisis, and he took some time to talk about the upcoming eight-hour workshops that the League will be hosting around the state.

How does Mental Health First Aid prepare people to provide help in a crisis?
First, the concept of Mental Health First Aid is to provide help to someone developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis, so we prepare people to offer first aid in a crisis until appropriate help can be reached. The goal is to give you the skills to recognize warning signs of a mental illnesses crisis and the ability to say “I know what’s happening, I recognize these signs, now I know what to do.” The purpose isn’t to teach people to diagnose mental illnesses, but instead to provide them with a variety of skill and tools, to help someone who may be experiencing a crisis. Not only are you given the tools to connect to appropriate professional help, you’re given tools to offer help and what can be done. There is detailed information on how to de-escalate a crisis, and what words to use in many different situations.

Why do you feel this training is important for city employees?

Mental illness is an everyday situation and affects everyone, which is why this audience is so great. This was made for everyone, not just people who are already first responders. People in these roles connect with many community members, it’s likely that they’ll connect with someone who can be helped with the skills they’ll get in these workshops.

What sort of need have you seen for this training in Minnesota cities, and what impact have you seen it have as more people are trained?
There is a high demand for the class across the state. Part of what we do is to help people understand that mental illness is much more common than we think and that we all experience anxiety or depression, but there’s a difference between that and having depression. A big part of these workshops is to recognize that difference, and to understand what next steps you can take. You’ll develop active intelligence—you’ll be able to act on the information you get in this eight-hour training, plus you’ll have materials to refer to so you can provide the best help.

What sort of impact have you seen Mental Health First Aid having in the community?

Shortly after my co-teacher started instructing these workshops, one student put this knowledge to use to help someone at her church who was thinking about suicide. She used the words in the manual, understood the needs the person in crisis had, connected the person with appropriate professional support, and that person then got treatment. The great thing about Mental Health First Aid is that you can put it into action to make a difference in the community.

Want to know more about Mental Health First Aid? Visit the League’s website to find out about workshops scheduled this fall.

Akmed Khalifa is a Fairview Health Services Youth Grief Services Camp coordinator focusing on expanding the program into North Minneapolis. Akmed has spent the past 40 years counseling and mentoring young adults in both community and educational settings. Akmed is an educator and trainer with experience ranging from serving as adjunct faculty at Metro State University to being a certified diversity trainer who has taught City of Minneapolis employees, Bloomington Public Schools staff and others.

This Q&A was originally posted in 2017, and has been updated with new links to the 2018 workshops.